Myanmar Military Chief Pays Respects to Thai Statesman Gen. Prem

By The Irrawaddy 31 May 2019

YANGON—Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Friday paid his last respects to General Prem Tinsulanonda, the former Thai army chief and close adviser to Thailand’s revered royals whom the senior general regarded as his “adopted father”. Gen. Prem died on Sunday at the age of 98.

Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy the senior general flew to Thailand on a one-day trip Friday to pay his condolences.

“The senior general paid his respects [to Gen. Prem] because he promoted better relations between the Myanmar and Thai armies,” Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun said.

The last time they met was in March this year when Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was in Thailand. During their meeting at his residence, Gen. Prem let Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing sit beside him on a couch in his living room decorated with pictures of Thai royals. They discussed the progress of the friendship between the armed forces of Myanmar and Thailand, the role of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) in peace, stability and national development, the promotion of cooperation between the two armed forces and the exchange of goodwill visits between them.

They first met in 2011 when the senior general made his first visit to Thailand as military chief. In the years that followed, the relationship between the two soldiers deepened.

The senior general reportedly said they had a good feeling about each other from their first meeting, pointing out that the general was one year junior to his own late father, whom Gen. Prem reportedly knew.

Since 2013, Myanmar and Thailand have been taking it in turns to host annual high-level military meetings.

Thailand is the country Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has visited most as military chief—more than 10 times between 2011 and May this year.

Furthermore, the Myanmar military chief has twice been bestowed with Thailand’s highest honors: in 2013, he was awarded the Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Crown of Thailand “for promoting friendship between the two armed forces of Myanmar and Thailand,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported at the time. Early this year, Thailand awarded him the “Knight Grand Cross First Class of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant” in Bangkok “to show the long and close relations” between the two countries, the Royal Thai Armed Forces said in a statement.

Apart from the awards, the Myanmar military chief was “adopted” by Thailand’s former army chief and the two had a “godfather-godson relationship,” the Straits Times reported in 2014.

“According to Thai media reports, during a visit to Thailand in 2012, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, 58, asked General Prem, a symbol of Thailand’s royalist-military elites, to adopt him as his son,” the report said.

“The 94-year-old Thai general, who has no children of his own, agreed,” it added.

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